The brouhaha over House Representative John Bertiz not removing his shoes for a security check at the Manila International Airport is, itself, evidence that rules and the Law don’t really rule in the Philippines. In a modern society of laws, such a display of arrogance would have been swiftly dealt with and not have required a video to go “viral” for steps to have been taken to resolve it. This being the Philippines, however, the Bertiz circus is being feasted upon by the media and a cadre of “activists” only too eager to politicise it. In reality, the law, even in this instance takes a back seat to the arguments of the poorly-educated. It is an irony that flies over the heads of the Philippines’ self-appointed “thought leaders”.
One really can’t take seriously the “outrage” over this latest circus exhibited by a people who, on a day-to-day basis, tolerate banal violation of their laws. On a given day, jeepneys drivers flout traffic rules with impunity, parasites squat on public and private property, pedestrians spit and urinate on sidewalks, and entire households dump rubbish and raw sewage down rainwater channels. Up the food chain, it is the same. The crimes are just bigger and impact more people further up. But the attitudes are no different to the average Filipino schmoe on the street. Filipinos, in general, feel they are above the law and are entitled to be treated special.
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Filipinos wonder why the crooks, miscreants, and buffoons — from jeepney drivers all the way up to top government officials — who rampage through life breaking Philippine laws don’t suffer the consequences that befit their anti-social ways. Right there in that video of Bertiz berating an airport official is the answer. It is easy to be outraged by Bertiz’s behaviour. But not too many of these outrage faddists would think of questioning why the airport official Bertiz accosted did not assert his right to apply the rules he is duty-bound to uphold. Right there and then, this airport official should have taken Bertiz into custody for acting in a threatening manner to an officer of the facility.
The bigger lesson here is that officers of the law and those tasked with overseeing the security of public facilities should be empowered to assert their authority. There are procedures for stopping, disarming, and taking into custody people who refuse to comply to rules. At some point, Bertiz was clearly subject to such procedures. The airport official should have acted accordingly. That this “incident” has since been elevated to the Court of Public Opinion and is being feasted upon by Big Corporate Media and Filipino “activists” is, by itself, an expo of just how dysfunctional Philippine society is. We really should step back and regard this bigger picture and understand the deep-rooted source of why Philippine society continuously churns out not just pricks like Bertiz but flaccid officers such as that NAIA official who didn’t do his job the whole way.
On that note, one could not help but admire the officer of the Presidential Security Group who stood up to Rappler reporter Pia Ranada when she acted in that all-too-familiar self-entitled manner within Malacanang premises. He did his job in a professional manner. The unprofessional behaviour of Ranada, on the other hand, was on exhibit to provide context to this excellent conduct of what could have been a nasty incident. In that incident, one can quickly note how the Philippine media encourage bad behaviour in a set of professionals long known for the disproportionate sense of entitlement they routinely exhibit. Politicians like Bertiz and “journalists” like Ranada should be taken to task for acting on what, essentially, are impulses ingrained in them by Philippine society itself.
The only true pathway to curing the Philippines of this deep malaise is to engage in deep reflection. On one hand, incidents such as that of Bertiz and Ranada should be called out. But there is much in the way of how much respect Filipinos accord the officers who oversee, administer, and enforce rules and laws. Philippine “activism” and the mainstream media industry that supports them have swung too far out to coddle law-breakers and paint them as “victims” rather than as the crooks and anti-social undesireables that they really are. The results of this misguided approach are on display in the news and in what “trend” in our social media feeds today. Its products are people like Bertiz, those bozos who were subject to viral video hell, and the many more unnamed psychos who routinely flout the law and escape scrutiny and the consequences of their actions. Filipinos should follow the law and lawbreakers should suffer the consequence with or without media circuses or videos going “viral”. A society that quietly upholds the law is a society that can truly earn the respect of its people.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.